General and politican Julius Caesar was on his way to becoming the first Roman emperor when he was assasinated (44 BC). Along with Alexander, he is the best known figure of the ancient world. And along with Alexander one of the greatest military commanders of all time. As with Alexander, Caesar's impact on events was limited by an early death at the peak of his power. Caesar of the great ancient commaders seems the mot adept and coverting his military victories into political acoomplishments of a statesman when he was assasunated. [Strauss] Caesar brought the Empire close to its modern extension, conquering large areas of Spain and most imporantly Gaul. This brouhht Rome to both the Atlantic and North Sea. He oversaw the first invasion of Britain and crossed the Rhine, demonstrating to the Germans that the Rhine was not a barrier. One is inclined to speculate that had Caesar lived that the Legions would have crossed the Rhine permanently and there would have been no Teutoburg Forrest. The consquences would have fundamentally altered European history. Caesar is one of the great military commanders of all time. Almost all military historians put Alexander and Caesar at or near the top of great military commanders. He had a tactical acumen tht ws unparalled and like all great commanders had an intuitive understanding of the battlefield as well as the equally important grasp of how armies functioned. He built on the existing Roman military structure and perfected it to the point that it would dominate Europe, the Levant, and North Africa for four centuries. He also left a vision of a united Europe that would inspire subsequent conquerors for centuries. While best known for his military accomplishments, Caesar was also an accomplished politican/satesman, orator, and author. [Yenne]
His father was Gaius Julius Caesar, a praetor. His mother was Aurelia from a family that had important connections. His immediare family had noble, patrician orgins, but his father was by no means wealthy and had little influence. His aunt Julia opened a door to real power. She was the wife of Gaius Marius, the powerful leader of the Popular faction. This is probably how Caesar's father obtained the rank of praetor, the second highest of the Republic's elected magistracies. He governed the province of Asia.
Julius Caesar was born (101-100 BC). Legend has it he or a ancestor was born by Caesarean section, but this seems unlikely. Caesar had two sisters, both named Julia. Nothing is know of his childhood. The important biographies by Suetonius and Plutarch both begin abruptly in his teens. Curiously the opening paragraphs of both appear seem to have been lost. We know that helived through very dangerous times as a boy. The bloody Social War was fought (91-88 BC). And Caesar's family was in the midle of it. Rome was forced to fight her Italian allies over the issue of just who qualified for Roman citizenship. At the same time, King Mithridates of Pontus threatened the eastern provinces. At home Roman politics was biterly divided between the Optimates and Populares. The Optimates were conservative and supported the interests of the noble upper classes and the authority of the Senate. The Populares advocated reform to improve the interests of the Roman masses and promoted the authority of the Popular Assemblies to achieve their goals. Caesar's uncle Marius was the leading Popularis and the family deepended on his patronafe. Marius' protégé Lucius Cornelius Sulla turned to the Optimas. And while Caesar was stillm a youth, a deadly civil war broke out.
Marriage caused huge problems for Caesar even before he met Cleopatra. His father died while he was still a teenager (85 BC). Soon after he was betrothed, some say he married, a wealthy but plebian girl, Cossutia. They had been betrothed since boyhood. This betrothal/marriage was, however, soon broken off or disolved whenn Caesar received a religious post requiring a patrican wife. He married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna--a prominent member of the Popular faction when he was still only 18 years old. She later bore him his only legitimate daughter, Julia. When the Optimate dictator, Sulla, held power, he ordered Caesar to divorce her. Caesar refused and Sulla proscribed him. This put himm on a list of political opponents to be executed and Sulla was responsible for many such executions of Marius' supporters. Caesar wisely went into hiding. Influential friends and relatives managed to obtain a pardon, although Sulla was reluctant.
His mother was Caesars entry into Roman politics. Cinna was a colleague of Marius, Caesar's uncle, and Caesar joined his party. With Sulla's triumph, Caesar was proscribed. Only with Sulla's death was Caesar safe (78 BC). The young Caesar on the staff of a military legate servung outside of Rome where it was safer, he was awarded the destinctiin of a civic crown (oak leaves) for saving the life of a citizen in battle (79 BC). The general sent him on an diplomatic mission to Nicomedes, the king of Bithynia, to obtain military support, a fleet of ships. Caesar succeeded, but gossip surfaced that that he had only persuaded the king (a known homosexual) by sleeping with him. When Sulla died, Caesar was able to return to Rome and began a political career as a orator/lawyer. He was throughout his life regognized as an eloquent speaker and artful writer. He pursued the life of a soohisticated man-about-town. Caesar decided to go to Greece for academic study (75 BC). He was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held for ransom. When they told him that they were asking for 20 talents, legand has it that he insisted thathe was worth at least 50. He maintained an amicable reltiinship with the e pirates while his ransom was being raised. Hev warned them, however, that he would track them down and crucify after they released him. And he was true to his word, raising a volunteer force. And he crucuified them as he told them he would. As an act of mercy, he cut their throats first. Caesar was elected military tribune (72 BC). This was the beginning of his seriius military and politcal career. Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls (70 BC). Caesar emerged as a talented politican, championing the people against the Senate. He was elected pontifex maximus and instututed reforms.
Along with Alexander, he is the best known figure of the ancient world. And along with Alexander one of the greatest military commanders of all time. Caesar brought the Empire close to its modern extension, conquering large areas of Spain and most imporantly Gaul. Gaul was just one province, but because of its location and agricultural richness, was a crucially important province. And the Celts (Gauls) had been one of Rome's greatest foes. The conquest of Gaul brought Rome to both the Atlantic and North Sea. He oversaw the first invasion of Britain and crossed the Rhine, demonstrating to the Germans that the Rhine was not a barrier. One is inclined to speculate that had Caesar lived that the Legions would have crossed the Rhine permanently and there would have been no Teutoburg Forrest. The consquences would have fundamentally altered European history. Caesar is one of the great military commanders of all time. Almost all military historians put Alexander and Caesar at or near the top of great military commanders. He had a tactical acumen that was unparalled and like all great commanders had an intuitive understanding of the battlefield as well as the equally important grasp of how armies functioned. He built on the existing Roman military structure and perfected it to the point that it would dominate Europe, the Levant, and North Africa for four centuries. He also left a vision of a united Europe that would inspire subsequent conquerors for centuries.
As with Alexander, Caesar's impact on events was limited by an early death at the peak of his power. General and politican Julius Caesar was on his way to becoming the first Roman emperor when he was assasinated. Caesar of the great ancient commaders seems the mot adept and coverting his military victories into political acoomplishments of a statesman when he was assasunated. [Strauss] While best known for his military accomplishments, Caesar was also an accomplished politican/satesman, orator, and author. [Yenne] He saw his first militay service in Spain. Caesar undoubtedly realized that in Rome, political success would ultimately require military backing. He returned to Rome (66BC). He formed the First Triumverate with Crassius and Pompey. He then managed to secure the Senate's approval for a campaign in Gaul. It is here that he earned his reputation as one of the great military commnders in history. Yet his success in Gaul is often overstated. The Gauls were formidable and outnumered the Romans. They were, however, not a united people and did not have disciplined armies. Caesar was able to fight the tribes one at a time. He was not doubt a competent if brutal military commander. The victories in Gaul were in large measure the result of the highly professional, disciplined legions as much as his military genious. His daughter Julia who married Pompy died (54 BC). From this point a rivalry grew as Pompey supported the senatorial party. After Crassus was defeated and killed by the Parthians (53 BC), Pompey is elected as sole consul by the Senate (52 BC). he death of Crassius meant that the two were rivals for ultimate power in Rome.
Ciscero believes that Caesar threatens th Republic and is intrumental in having him declared an enemy of the Roman Republic. The conservative Senate convinces Pompey to return to Rome and sees in him its defender against Ceasar and the popular party. The Senate desired to end Ceasar's military command and prevent him from becoming consul. The Senate ordered him to disband his legions if he desires to be consul. The Senate demands he disband his legions Caesar still in Gaul marched south, famiously crossed the Rubicon and entered Rome in triumph (49 BC). This was the beginning of a civil war.
Caesar and Pompey waged a civil. Pompey and important aristocrats fled Rome and gathered their forces in Greece. Ceasar and Pompey finally meet in battle at Pharsalus in Greece (48 BC). Pompey was defeated. He fled to Egypt where he is killed. Caesar pursuong Pomey encounters Ckeopatra. Ceasar then took effective control of the state from the Senate, but unlike previous military commanders Marius and Sulla, Ceasar did not conduct a reign of terror agaonst his enemies, There are neither proscriptions or confiscations. Ciscero was not arrested. Ceasar proceeded with economic and administrative reforms to end corruption and promote prosperity. Ceasar conducted a successful campaign in Spain against forces still loyal to Pompey. While in Spain, Ceasar was appointed Dictator and (46 BC). He renounced the post and was elected consul again. The remaining forces still loyal to Pompey were crushed at Munda in Spain. Ceasar is proclaimed dictator for life (45 BC).
Part of the reason he is so highly regarded today is his literary gifts. He wrote extensively about his campaigns and genius in letters back to Rome to help build his political positin. He was the first great military commnder of history to do this. These letters were read an translated by multiple generations of school boys.
Caesar divorced his second wife, Pompeia because of scandolous behavior with Clodius. He famously said, 'Caesar's wife must be above suscpicion.' He maried Calpurnia.
Caesarwith a small forc of legionaries pursued Pomey, landed in Alexandria (48 BC). The Egyptians no desire to face a Roman invasion and betrayed Pompey and presented his head to Caesar who professed horror. Caesar insisted that the Egyptians pay him 40 million sesterces that he was owed by Ptolemy XII whi he had helped put down a revolt. Ptolemy had died and the crown had passed ton his two oldest children, Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII, as joint rulers. The eunuch Pothinus who controlled the court and the Egyptian general Achillas, able to control a12-year old Ptolemy XIII, had driven Cleopatra (20-21 years old at the time) out of Alexandria. Cleopatra in a desperate act had herself smuggled into the palace in Alexandria wrapped in a rug presented as a gift to Caesar. She managed to obtain his support to regain control the Egyptian throne. Cleopatra like the other Ptolemies, was not Egyption but Greek (Macedonian). She was intelligent and well-educated. Caesar was not only enchanted with her, but saw her as a useful ally in controling Egypt and its wealth. This was a direct threat to Pothinus who was able to draw on the anti-Roman feelings of the population. A Caesar's small force of only 4,000 legionares put him in danger. Achillas also in danger if Cleopatra was restored with 20,000 men besieged the palace. Caesar managed to hold out until reenfircements arrived. He ordered Pothinus executed as a traitor, but permitted her brother to join the Achillas and his army. He ordered the Egyptian fleet burnt, tragically the the great Library of Alexandria, also located in the harbor, was consumed in the confalguration. Caesar left Alexandria, having firmly established Cleopatra on the throne (47 BC). Her status was that of a client ruler allied to Rome. He left three legions under the command of Rufio, as legate, to support her. Cleopatra then delivered a male child. She named him Caesarion, declarin him Caesar's son.
Republican nobels in the Senate led by Marcus Junius Brutus are convinced that Ceasar planned to end the Republic and declare himself king. To prevent this they assasinated Caesar in the Senate (44 BC). Many of the asasins were politicalm ssociates ad men he had befriended. There motives were to presetve the Republic. Historians still debate Caesar's motives and goals.
Strauss, Barry. Masters of Command: Alexabder, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership (2012).
Yenne, Bill. Julius Caesar: Lessons in Leadership from the Great Conqueror (2012), 224p.
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